Rendezvous & Proximity Operations, Distributed Formation Flight

The purpose of disaggregating space assets is to provide options within architecture to drive down cost, increase resiliency and distribute capability

The increasingly congested and contested nature of orbital regimes have led General Shelton, former Commander of the Air Force Space Command, to move the Air Force towards fractionated system architectures and away from exquisite monolithic systems. Presently, most high performance missions launch monolithic exquisite spacecraft that are vulnerable to on-orbit collisions and contesting actions. Conversely, fractionated systems involve a collection of small, replaceable satellites that compartmentalize specific functional activities (e.g., payload, processing, communicating with ground) and remain relatively close to one another. As the number of smaller spacecraft in a fractionated system increase, distributed autonomous on-orbit formation flight technologies are needed.